Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Nursing Best Practice Guidelines

Background
  • Obesity is a growing public health issue (Government of Ontario, 2004; Institute of Medicine [IOM], 2004).
  • There is strong evidence that, among Canadian children, the prevalence of overweight and obesity is rising rapidly (Tremblay & Willms, 2000; Willms, Tremblay, & Katzmarzyk, 2003)
  • Obesity in childhood and adolescence may have adverse effects on social, academic, and economic outcomes in childhood and adulthood (Gortmaker, Must, Perrin, Sobol, & Dietz, 1993; IOM, 2004; Must et al., 1992). 
  • Obese and overweight children and youth are at risk of developing serious social and emotional health consequences related to their weight status. Today’s society often stigmatizes people with obesity. This stigmatization, in turn, can lead to shame, self-blame, and low self-esteem that may negatively affect academic and social functioning now and into adulthood (IOM, 2004, Lobstein et al., 2004).
  • The rising rates of obesity during childhood are influenced by various elements of what has been described as an obesogenic* environment (one that promotes sedentary or less active lifestyles and the overconsumption of food in general, and a greater consumption of high-fat high-calorie foods, in particular).
  • Numerous studies confirm that when parents are obese, the risk of persistent obesity in their children increases three-fold (Fuentes, Notkola, Shemeikka, Tuomilehto & Nissinen, 2002; Mo-suwan, Tongkumchum & Puetpaiboon, 2000; Whitaker, Wright, Pepe, Seidal & Dietz, 1997).
  • From a prevention perspective, it is more important to note that lifestyle patterns relating to nutrition and physical activity develop within the context of the family.
  • Dietary energy and fat intake (Oliveria, Ellison, Moore, Gillman, Garrahie & Singer, 1992) and physical activity profiles (Moore et al., 1991; Perusse, Tremblay & Leblanc, 1988) in children closely reflect those of their parents.
  • Knowing the risk factors for the development of obesity in childhood and adolescence can help guide early identification and targeted prevention efforts.
  • The development of childhood overweight and obesity at individual, family, and population levels, suggest that effective prevention efforts will require the development of interventions that affect nutritional intake and physical activity at each of these levels.